My Grandpa and the Gulmohar

The Deccan Herald dated 10th June, 2010 carried a middle The Gulmohar tree, written by Navaratna Laxman. It is a short story about how “When the tree developed a huge crack, the whole locality was concerned”.

It’s a story I saved because my Grandpa, Nagesh Rao Manay (whom I never did know personally because he passed away when I was just one) finds mention in it (though his name is not spelt correctly). Continue reading

Remembering Grandpa

21st June was usually “get-together day” for the CS Ananthan Nair family. If it was a holiday, it was lunch that went into tea. Otherwise, tea that eventually carried on till dinner. Apart from being the longest day of the year, it was a special day that we all looked forward to, my grandpa’s birthday. When he turned 80, we had a bit of a big celebration, where we called all his relatives, friends and neighbours. Grandpa would have been 106 today. And in a week it would be 10 years since he moved on.

Grandpa’s obituary card, June 2004

Continue reading

Fort Dansborg: Sights and Secrets

This is the fourth post on Tranquebar.
Previous posts:
Tranquebar: the history missing in our history books
The First Ziegenbalg Monument
The fort that walled the tsunami

Fort Dansborg, Tranquebar is the only existing Danish Fort in India. It was built in 1620 by Danish Admiral Ove Gedde, very close to the Bay of Bengal shoreline. More about the fort can be read in the last post The fort that walled the tsunami.

P1010834-lrThe portion towards the Bay of Bengal is on two levels, extends north to south and is trapezoidal in plan. On the upper level were residences of the governor and the priests, and the church room. The space below this was used as warehouse, store room and stables for horses. The central part of the fort has four camel hump shaped domes that we couldn’t see as access was restricted. Continue reading

The fort that walled the tsunami

Fort Dansborg, popularly known as the Danish Fort, at Tranquebar, was built by Admiral Ove Gedde, Commander in the Royal Danish Navy, starting 1620 AD. The land was given by the then Thanjavur King Raghunatha Nayak, at an annual rent of Rs 3111. This fort served as the trading base for the Danes during their time in India, 17th-19th century AD.

A stone plaque at the east side of the fort

While currently Fort Dansborg refers to just the fort building, in earlier times, it included the entire walled city comprising of the streets and other buildings. The wall, it is said, was about 50 metres from the shoreline which has receded about 300 metres over 300 years (Source: Book titled Early interactions between South and Southeast Asia). Continue reading

The First Ziegenbalg Monument

Here by the grace of God
landed on the 9th of July 1706
the first Ev Lutheran missionaries to India
Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg
Heinrich Plutschau.

Writing at Ziegenbalg's landing site

Erected by the grateful congregations
of the Leipzig Ev Luth Mission
in the Jubilee Year 1906.

So reads the inscription at the Ziegenbalg Monument erected at his landing site on the shores of Tranquebar in 1906, two hundred years after his arrival. Continue reading

Environment Day blues

Random incidents that come to mind on June 5, World Environment Day

Our neighbours in Bangalore don’t like our trees. Rather, they don’t like the leaves from our trees. Also, when I tell them that about the trees’ oxygen, they say that they don’t like the oxygen either. They’ve chopped down every green or brown stem that dared set root in their compounds, and concreted every square foot of land. In fact, one of the houses has left no clearance on any side. They obviously don’t know that their lungs are dependent on our trees to keep up their oxygen levels. And they await Akrama-Sakrama.

Roadside trees in Mumbai are being pruned before the monsoons. This, so that the falling branches during the rains and windy hailstorms do not fall on people or vehicles. The cutters say that they try not to disturb birds nests, but if they’re in the way of their assigned task, they will have to go. After all, human lives and property are more valuable than the birds. Continue reading

Tranquebar: the history missing in our history books

We have all heard about the Europeans in India, right from the ancient times of Alexander The Great in 326 BC, to the modern times of the British monarch.

Looking through the history text books I used in school (DN Kundra, Part I & II, 1983 edition), a full section can be found devoted to the modern Europeans. Titled “The British Period”, it starts with Vasco-da-Gama who arrived in Calicut in 1498 from Portugal, and continues with the Dutch, British and French, and their East India Companies. So when anyone talks about the Danes in India, it would be a surprise, to even those who think they are well-read. The Danish travelers find no mention at all in our history books, and if you have heard about them, it is most likely by conversational chance! (Unless, of course, you are from Tranquebar.) Continue reading